Posts Tagged ‘Teen Guys’

Don’t Get Lost in Love

Written by Jonathan on . Posted in Blog, Challenging, Teen Boys, Teen Guys

February is largely known for one thing: Valentine’s Day. Yes, there are other holidays. However, ask most people what is special about February and they’ll reply with “Valentine’s.” Candy hearts, red roses, balloons, heart-shaped boxes filled with chocolates, and Nat King Cole singing “L-O-V-E”. Love. In my opinion, it’s the best word that sums up February.

I don’t know how you feel about Valentine’s Day. If you’re in your 20s, single, and want that “special someone” in your life (as Great-Aunt Rita would say), you are very likely just trying to avoid that feeling of loneliness which so easily can creep into your life. If you’re between the ages of 1-19, your eyes might be rolling while you attempt to dodge the love-struck sibling or friend at the Valentine’s Day party.

Whatever your view of Valentine’s is, what I’m going to say next is important for each and every one of us: Don’t get lost in love for each other. “WHAT?!” Some of you are saying. “You’re crazy! That’s what Valentine’s is for! To show those we love that we care about them!” And you’re exactly right. But while we go about showing our love for our friends and family, February is the best month to remember someone who demonstrated the ultimate sacrifice of love: Jesus Christ. Roughly 2,000 years ago, he came to the earth as a baby. For 33 years he lived a life just like you and me (besides the miracles he did and the perfect life he lived). And then – he died. On a cross. An excruciating death. But he didn’t die for something he had done. He died because he was showing his love for you and me.

John 15:13 tells us that “greater love hath no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (ESV). Jesus showed how much he loved us by laying down his life for imperfect people who do stupid, imperfect, things. He died and rose again so that we might have eternal life with him. His was the ultimate sacrifice of love.

So while we go about celebrating Valentine’s Day, don’t forget to stop and remember what Christ did for you and me in his death on the cross. When we show love to others, we’re simply mirroring his great love for us.

Scarlet Fetters {Encouragement for Young Men}

Written by Jonathan on . Posted in Blog, Challenging, Teen Boys, Teen Guys

This may be one of the most important posts for young men to take notice of, because through it there can be an unprecedented amount of victory in your Christian walk.

Likely like many of you, I was forced to read a book for a literature class called The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Wait! Don’t stop reading! I can already sense the yawns of boredom, worried about the direction a post is going to go that starts out with a boring, dusty old book. But keep reading because it contains a very important point.

In the book, there are two characters who sinned together. One is a lady who was married but because she ends up having a child because of her adultery, they pin a red capital letter ‘A’ on her so that everyone knows she is an adulteress.  Nobody knows who the man was. As you read, you discover that the man is the local preacher in the community.

The character that impacted me the most was the preacher who had committed the sin with Hester Prynne. The adulteress had the scarlet ‘A’ emblazoned on her clothes for all the world to see so that the whole community could shun her. The weak, “righteous” preacher on the other hand had hidden his sin and was upheld highly by the entire community as a man of God whose words from the pulpit each week were beautiful and true, impacting them more deeply than any they’d ever heard before. He was the last person they would suspect of such a heinous sin. As you read, you see the result that hiding his sins had on the man. He becomes weaker and weaker, wracked by guilt, but still living his pious, righteous life on the outside. He is tormented by the demons of shame and regret and the reality of his hypocrisy;  it takes a toll on his body, physically he becomes paler and weaker all the time. It’s not as though he’s still living in the sin—he just hid the sin from the people. The book presents him as a trapped man with no escape. As I read, I felt the crushing weight on him, and kept searching in my mind for a way he could get out of this situation. The only solution that came up time and time again was that he had to confess. He was living a lie by hiding his sin and had to confess it, accepting any consequences that came as a result, and move on. Surely whatever would happen would be better than the wretched existence he was living now. The whole character clearly portrays the effect of covering your sin. And I remember when I read it, it stirred in me a deep commitment to be open and broken and transparent.

The Bible says “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)

The fact is that it is not easy to confess our sins. It’s embarrassing…it’s awkward! It’s even hard to confess to God sometimes because it means we’re admitting we’re wrong. We want to downplay what we’ve done or pretend that it doesn’t really matter or justify it. But if you feel guilty about something, that’s a sure sign that you should confess it to someone you trust like your parents! (However, it’s important to note that even if you don’t feel guilty, but know it’s wrong before God, you also need to confess it before the Lord and repent. Sometimes people convince themselves that if they’re not convicted, it’s alright, but God has a standard of right and wrong that transcends our feelings.)

This applies specifically to young men because there are a lot of pressures we face at this time of life and there are changes we are going through that can be embarrassing and awkward. When I was at college, a group of Christian guys joined together to form an accountability group and we made a commitment to be completely open with one another, and admit what we were struggling with, and answer any questions that we were asked in the group.

If there’s something you’re struggling with, don’t just try to handle it yourself. As the verse above says, whoever covers his sins will not prosper. We need each other and God has given you your parents and a Christian community in the church to rely on. This truth has greatly impacted me and freed me from so much guilt and bondage and I pray that it will have the same affect on you.

James 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

A New Year {Encouragement for Young Men}

Written by Jonathan on . Posted in Blog, Challenging, Teen Boys, Teen Guys

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9

2014. A brand new year. Among all the festivities of the past few weeks, I’m sure you took a few minutes to jot down a few New Year’s goals (don’t worry if you didn’t; I’m not judging). Perhaps you reviewed 2013 and all that happened. Or didn’t. Either way, what I’m about to say applies to all of us, goal makers and non-goal makers alike.

As I looked back over my 2013, one thing kept popping up in my face: All the times I failed (it’s not the happiest thought, I know). Failed to be on time, failed to keep my cool, failed to follow through on something, failed to focus on what I needed to be focusing on. Ouch. It hurt. I was feeling a little overwhelmed at trying to do better in 2014, and then I received an email from a friend.

Let me back up here. A few weeks before, someone had begun a “Bible verse email.” Basically this is where someone’s name goes on an email, it’s sent around to 20 people, and those 20 people send a Bible verse to the person named (also known as a “chain letter”). My name eventually ended up on the list and this person was sending me my verse. Except she sent the wrong verse. I did get the right text, but it had the wrong reference with it. She quoted it as coming from I John 1:9 when it was supposed to be referenced as Joshua 1:9. Being one of those people with an insatiable curiosity, I had to look up 1 John 1:9… And that’s where I felt as if I’d received a smack right in the face.

I had been so worried about wondering how not to fail in 2014, that I forgot about what Christ has done. He’s paid for our failures! And, like I John says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” It’s time to confess our failure, and to begin again. Learn from your failures of last year, then forget them. Live each day this year intentionally. Realize that choices have consequences, whether good or bad, and only you can choose whether to do the right thing or not. And most importantly, don’t view 2014 as a daunting year, but instead as a fresh start. Acknowledge what Christ has done, confess your failures, and look at 2014 as a clean slate, ready to be written on.

“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective.” – G. K. Chesterton

G.K. Chesterton’s quote is brilliant picture. What are some fresh ways we can approach 2014?

What are some things you’d like to change this year in your life?

What are some of your goals for this year?

 

The Power to Not Turn the Other Cheek {Encouragement for Young Men}

Written by Jonathan on . Posted in Blog, Challenging, Teen Boys, Teen Guys

Somebody shared an interesting thought with me the other day. When we think of turning the other cheek, we, as young guys find that hard to accept. We think of it as weakness, and want to fight back. That’s just a passion within us that makes sense. But what if turning the other cheek shows more strength than it does weakness? What if it’s not as meaningful if the person who turns the other cheek IS weak?

Think about it. If a person doesn’t fight someone because they physically aren’t strong enough, is that any big deal? No, they don’t really have a choice. There’s no respect there. Picture however a tough, strong guy who is able to fight back, and someone slaps him on the cheek. Now he is able to fight back and could probably win against the jerk who is picking a fight. But instead he chooses not to. That demands more respect. That’s meaningful. He’s strong enough to fight back and win, and yet, he still chooses to hold himself back.

This is the very example Jesus gives us. When the soldiers were taking Him away to be crucified, we notice a couple things right off the bat. First of all, Jesus tells His disciples to go buy a sword. Don’t believe me? Look it up! (Luke 22:36) Why then a few hours later does He admonish Peter to put the sword back in his sheath when he cuts off Malchus’s ear? (John 18:10-11) The disciples ask Jesus if they should smite (Luke 22:49) with one of the two swords He told them was enough (Luke 22:38) and when Peter in an impassioned frenzy goes for the closest guy’s head (who ducks left, so that Peter accidentally lops off his right ear), Jesus tells him to put his sword back in his place, for all who take the sword will perish with the sword (Matthew 26:52). Then, to add incense to injury, Jesus touches the guy’s ear, and heals it! (Luke 22:51) Why wouldn’t Jesus let His disciples, who had a small ability to defend Him with their two swords use it? It was partially for their own safety (John 18:8-9), but there was also a deeper reason. He chose not to defend Himself. Look what He tells Peter after telling him to put away his sword: “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53) He then turns to the soldiers and upbraids them for their cowardice but says it must be this way to fulfill the scriptures (Mark 14:48-49). Jesus was communicating that if He wanted to, He could stop what was happening. We know He had power because when all He did was say “I am after the soldiers said they were looking for Jesus, they all fell backwards (John 18:4-6). He could have stopped them if He wanted to. He had the ability to defend Himself. What we see here is that nobody took His life from Him…He laid it down willingly (John 10:18). I’m glad for that. It means the Jesus I serve isn’t the weak, sissified Jesus some would make Him out to be. He is strong and mighty and powerful. So strong that He was able to lay down His life to save us.

So when you see the command to turn the other cheek, know that it doesn’t mean you’re supposed to keep yourself weak and not get strong enough to defend righteousness, your family, the weak, the underprivileged and helpless. It’s not a command for the weak. It takes strength to do what Jesus did and not hot headedly defend your own pride. It means so much more when you willingly turn the other cheek when you have the ability not to.

 

How does this change the way that you think about Jesus and His life on earth?

How can you apply this concept in your own life?  

Have you ever found yourself going between the two extremes of hotheadedness and irresponsibility?

What are ways that you can strengthen yourself, spiritually and physically?

Can you think of a time in which you showed greater strength in holding back rather than exacting vengeance?

Kingdom of God: What and Where? {Encouragement for Young Men}

Written by Jonathan on . Posted in Blog, Challenging, Teen Boys

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word “kingdom”?

 

Maybe you imagine a fairy-tale kingdom…a castle with a long drawbridge, and turrets all around.  With a princess high up in a tower (because they always seem to hang around in those things for some reason), a king and queen seated on their thrones with courtiers and jesters attending to them, and knights just outside trotting around on horses.  Or maybe you’re into a little more ancient historical events and picture cruel Assyria, advancing their kingdom by whatever means necessary, piling up the skulls of their enemies by their gates.  Or perhaps Babylon or Persia, with its funny-looking towers with tear-dropped shaped tops.  Or maybe you see Alexander the Great weeping because there’s nothing left to conquer, or see Augustus Caesar ascending to the throne after Julius Caesar was murdered.  Or maybe you see something from Lord of the Rings or Star Wars or imagine the current United Kingdom, I don’t know.

 

In light of all these kingdoms, let me give you my own definition for kingdom.

KINGDOM – Wherever a king has domain.  The place where a king’s authority is in place and the people are subject to him and his laws.

 

In light of all that, did you know the Bible speaks of a kingdom not ruled by man…but God.  The kingdom of God.  In fact, in the book of Daniel, the king of Babylon has a dream of the kingdoms I mentioned above, and when the prophet Daniel interprets it, he explains about another kingdom…the kingdom of God…that will supersede all of these kingdoms!

Daniel 2:44  And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. 

 

That sound pretty sweet!  The God of heaven sets up a kingdom that will NEVER be destroyed!  I kind of want to be on His side!  So when does this kingdom come about?  Let’s fast forward in time to when the Romans were ruling, and Jesus has been born.  In the midst of all this chaos of the Roman empire ruling the Jews, all of a sudden, a carpenter from Nazareth shows up on the scene and begins to preach about a kingdom.

Mark 1:14-15 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, (15) And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel. KJV

The Bible says He came in preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand!

Whaaaa?  What is he talking about?  Is it about to come?  Where is it?  Is He leading it?  That’s the exact question some of the Pharisees had.

Luke 17:20-21  And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: (21) Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. KJV

 

Jesus was saying the kingdom of God was already here, and that it did not come with observation, where you can just point to a central location, because it is WITHIN you.  Now before you get all disappointed with what may sound like a cop-out answer, think of how brilliant this is.  God doesn’t just conquer lands and forcefully subject people to His rule at this time.  Instead, He has set up a kingdom that can never be destroyed and has been spread out throughout the entire world already as I’m writing this, filled with pockets of people who are subject to Him!

Remember my definition of a kingdom?  It’s wherever a king has authority and people subject to Him.

We choose whether or not we are going to be a part of this kingdom right now.  Jesus told us how:  Repent and believe the gospel.  That makes perfect sense.  Repentance is changing our mindset about how we live.  It’s acknowledging that my way isn’t right, so I’m going to submit to God’s way.  It’s acknowledging Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, meaning that WHATEVER HE says, goes.  No matter what earthly government we are under at the time, are chief loyalty is to our Highest King!

 

What about you?  Are you part of the kingdom of God as is described here, with the King of Kings having ultimate rule in your heart?

Is there anything in your life that is NOT subject to your King?

Discuss Biblically how we become part of the kingdom and how we can tell others to join the kingdom.

 

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